During the dark season, especially in the period from the beginning of December to mid-January, there are frequent fires in rooms, but in the worst case, house or apartment fires can also occur as a result.
You probably already guessed it: The most common reason for fires in this season are unattended candles, no matter whether they are lit on Advent wreaths, Christmas trees, candlesticks, etc. In this video you can observe how fast a fire of a Christmas tree develops and spreads.
Fires in residential buildings are not only dangerous, they can also be expensive in case of damage. Consumers can protect themselves against financial risks with the appropriate insurance policies – household contents and buildings insurance and personal liability insurance.
Fire damage inside the home is covered by household contents insurance. The policy covers all items that are movable – even destroyed Christmas presents are included.
In the case of damage to buildings, on the other hand, the building insurance policy applies.
BUT: The insurances only cover the damages if there is no negligence.
If someone leaves the room for a longer period of time although the candles are still burning, this person is acting grossly negligent – even if it is only small tea lights. Such behaviour can have consequences for the settlement of claims. This is because in the event of gross negligence, the insurer may reduce the benefit proportionately or refuse it altogether.
In the case of new contracts before 01.01.2008 and old contracts before 01.01.2009, the insurers were often not liable in these cases. Now there is a graduated system of fault (slight negligence, gross negligence, intent, malice).
By the way: Report your damages immediately and do not dispose of the damaged items without consulting the insurer. The insurer may still want to inspect the damage. It may also be helpful to document the damage with photos as documentary evidence.
Even if the mishap happens on Christmas Eve: insured persons should not wait until after the holidays to report their claims. Insurers have a damage hotline for this purpose, which is often activated on public holidays. If nobody can be reached there, you should write an e-mail. This is because, according to the insurance company, damage must usually be reported “immediately”.
What to do so that the dark season does not have to remain dark but there is no risk of fire?
Electronics as an alternative to candles
To reduce the risk of fire, the use of electric Christmas decorations is an alternative: fairy lights for the Christmas tree or Christmas LED lamps – it works without candles.
But make sure to buy fairy lights only with GS mark. The name and address of the manufacturer should also appear on the packaging.
Avoid using sparklers in the house or apartment. In one case, for example, the Offenburg Regional Court ruled that it is grossly negligent to light sparklers directly on the Christmas tree (file number: 2 O 197/02). The household insurance was not obliged to pay for the damage caused.
If you still don’t want to be without real candles, here are a few tips for your safety:
Withered Advent wreath branches can quickly start an apartment fire. Therefore, you should replace the fir greenery regularly. Furthermore, candles on flower arrangements should never burn down completely. Self-extinguishing candles offer additional safety here. Candles should also never be left unattended and should never be placed near flammable materials.
If you want to decorate your Christmas tree with real wax candles, curtains, drapes, paper and upholstered furniture must be out of reach. If you have playful pets, it is better not to hang the Christmas decorations on the lowest branches or place the tree on a sturdy table. When lighting the tree, the rule of thumb is to start at the top and work your way down. When extinguishing the candles, it is the other way round.
Parents should also pay special attention to their children and inform them about the risks involved. If a fire breaks out because an eight-year-old ignites tea lights with the lighter lying on the dining room table, the child cannot be blamed, the Bielefeld Regional Court stated in one case. Because the child’s thoughts one day before Christmas had been “dominated by the question” of which Christmas presents he or she would receive. However, the parents had to be liable, because they should have been more careful (file number: 21 S 166/06).
By the way, so-called fire protection sprays are recommended to a limited extent.
According to the manufacturer Aisco, natural Christmas trees are problematic in terms of fire protection.
“There is no product on the market, not even from us, that reliably makes Christmas trees of any kind, “resinous” and dry, flame-resistant according to DIN4102 B1″.
Your duty of care is also necessary if you have treated your Advent wreath branches or your Christmas tree with a fire protection spray.
For other materials, however, a fire protection spray is often a very good solution – report follows in a separate article.
With these tips the team of König Konzept wishes you a wonderful, fire-free, relaxed Christmas time full of atmospheric moments and a fantastic slide into a new year.